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Politics

Johnson says Congress working on packer transparency, capacity

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U. S. Rep. Dusty Johnson during an Agriculture Committee hearing on “Price Discrepancies, Transparency, and Alleged Unfair Practices in Cattle Markets.”

U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson says the House is making progress on two pieces of legislation aimed at beef-packer concentration.

He says the bipartisan bills show that Congress is paying attention to the issue.

Johnson, R-South Dakota, says four meatpackers control about 80 percent of the beef marketplace.

CEO's from those four companies testified before Congress earlier this week.

Johnson and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers want more transparency and capacity outside of those companies.

Johnson has introduced a bill called the Butcher Block Act, which is a bipartisan bill aimed at expanding processing to other companies.

Johnson says the current system is so overly efficient it’s not resilient to market shocks like cyber security attacks, disease, or structure fires.

Johnson calls it a serious concern.

“The best way for us to tackle this, what can actually get done, what can actually improve the lives of producers, is building capacity outside of the big four. So we’ve got a fifth and a sixth and a seventh and a one-hundredth market participant that can help keep these guys hungry and honest.”

The bill is awaiting a hearing in the house.

Johnson is also pushing a bill that requires packers to disclose their cattle contracts.

“Frankly, transparency is really going to help us figure out what’s going on," Johnson says. "Not just in the sale barn, but in these bi-lateral agreements.”

Johnson’s cattle contract bill has passed the house. It’s sitting in the Senate Ag committee.